Book reviews

Book Review: Trail Guide to the Body

Title: Trail Guide to the Body: A Hands-on Guide to Locating Muscles, Bones and More
Author: Andrew Biel
Published: Fourth edition, 2010. However, there is a fifth edition, published in 2014. More on this later.
Format: Spiral-bound
Pages: 433, including indexes
Availability : widely available (purchased on Amazon)
Photos: No photos, but hundreds of color illustrations. Certain copies include a dvd. Purchasers of the fifth edition have a number of digital resources available to them.
Other related items available but not included: student workbook, flashcards, field guide, powerpoint, audio guide.
Description: Andrew Biel is a licensed massage therapist. According to his editorial description, he has served on the faculties of massage therapy colleges and taught cadaver studies. He is President of Books of Discovery, which is described on the Books of Discovery website as “an educational multimedia company, specializing in user-friendly musculoskeletal, palpatory, anatomy, and kinesiology tools for the manual therapy fields.” Trail Guide to the Body (let’s just call it “Trail Guide” for short) was first published in 1977 and has since been reissued several times. I am reviewing the fourth edition because that is the one I happen to own. The fifth edition, published last year, apparently includes an index of trigger point locations and pain patterns of over 100 muscles, which sounds quite interesting. If anyone has the newer addition, please let us know what you think. Trail Guide is recommended reading for certain state and federal licensing tests administered by various massage therapy boards and associations.
Trail Guide, like most anatomy books, begins in Chapter 1, Navigating the Body, by explaining and describing the different regions of the body, planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, transverse), the different types of movement, i.e. extension , rotation, etc. (later described for each region of the body) and the skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, nervous, and lymphatic systems. The rest of the book is broken down into six chapters, one for each body region – Shoulder & Arms, Forearm & hand, Spine & Thorax, Head, Neck & Face, Pelvis & Thigh and finally, Leg & Foot. Each chapter begins with topographical views. As the author states, knowing the “lay of the land” is important before embarking on any journey. Following are the subsections “Exploring the Skin & Fascia”, which guide the reader through mini explorations meant to be performed with a partner. Next are detailed illustrations of the bones and bony landmarks, called “trail markers”. The book provides several bony landmark trails in each chapter, the idea being that the reader will come to a much clearer understanding of the different structures of the human body and how these structures are connected if he is provided with a “trail”, hence the name of the book. Each page contains numerous illustrations, with step by step instructions for finding one’s way across the trail. After the bones subsection, each chapter proceeds to describe the muscles in each region – their actions, origin, insertion and nerve innervations, together with step-by-step palpitation instructions. Often the page contains a bubble description “When Do You Use Your ….”. The author provides examples that are easy for the reader to understand. For example, you use your suboccipitals when shampooing and your trapezius when holding a phone between your shoulder and ear.
Review: Trail Guide is a wonderful resource for manual therapists and movement experts such as pilates teachers. Although pilates teachers do not need to “talk anatomy” to their students, it is essential for them to have an understanding of the body’s structure and how these structures are connected and to be able to identify what they are seeing in their students. The book is very easy to understand. The illustrations are extremely clear (color helps – a lot) and the language used is quite simple and informal. The book also includes a pronunciation guide. For those of you who want to to know if, for example, the word “tubercle” is pronounced tu ber kl or tu ber kl, it is the former. At times, there is a hint of humor in the text. For example “ants and bees, both revered for their intelligence and diligence, have roughly 250 and 900 nerve cells, respectively, in their entire bodies. Humans, who do not always demonstrate such qualities, have an estimated 10,000,000,000 nerve cells in the brain alone.” The book is best read with a partner because it is intended to provide not only a visual but also sensory understanding of the body. However, even without a partner, at least for the purposes of a pilates teacher, it is very easy understand and having a partner, although preferable, is not essential. Unfortunately, no one in my family wanted to be the object of my palpitory studies (I wonder why). .
To Buy or Borrow: to buy.
Additional Information : a new book by the same author entitled “Trail Guide to Movement – Building the Body in Motion” is now available.